Red Tape – Banking and finance

As the regulators come down harder on banks and financial institutions, and Basel III, the Vickers reforms and Dodd-Frank are set to transform the banking and finance sector, which law firms are reaping the benefits?

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) raised £91.2m in fines from UK financial institutions during 2010/11. This marks a staggering increase from 2009/10 when it collected £33.5m. Since the start of 2011 it has fined individuals and institutions £38.4m. It also signals a backing up of the watchdog’s promise to flex its muscles, taking a more prominent position when it comes to enforcement, hoping to strike fear in the UK’s financial services community.

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LA Lawyer

Father of five, two-time Hawaiian Iron Man competitor, climber, trial lawyer extraordinaire and co-founder of what can legitimately claim to be the leading global litigation-only firm. John Quinn has earned the right to put his feet up. Not a chance he says.

On a hiking trip to Wyoming a few years ago, a group of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan litigators, headed up by founder John Quinn, arrived at a freezing 9,000 ft lake. Quinn joked that the first summer associate to swim the lake would get a job offer at his firm. Turning his back on the group for a moment, he heard a splash as one of the keen students dived headlong into the water. True to his word, an offer was made.

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Taking off

As the airline industry continues to face a tough economic climate, falling passenger numbers and strict regulations, litigation levels have risen. But who’s getting the work?

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou could shake things up in the airline sector yet again. The 46-year-old founder of easyJet grabbed the world’s interest in September with rumours that he’s on the verge of launching a new long-haul budget airline likely to be called Fastjet.

But Sir Stelios has drawn more headlines of late for his legal disputes. In particular, a lengthy legal showdown with easyJet, which he founded in 1995 and in which his family still owns a 37.4% stake. It’s a dispute that has also seen him at odds with his former solicitors, Bird & Bird.

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Dynamic Duo

Clyde & Co’s Michael Payton has held the top job at the firm for 27 years and since 1997 has formed a formidable partnership with CEO Peter Hasson.

On the eve of the firm’s much-hyped union with Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, LB takes a closer look at this successful management duo.

Michael Payton has presence: there is no other word for it. As one of the longest-serving senior partners in the City, when he enters the room he instantly seems to take charge.

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Making Headlines

General Pinochet, Nick Leeson and Ian Maxwell are all former clients.

More recently, Rebekah Brooks and UBS rogue trader Kweku Adoboli have called in Kingsley Napley for help. LB speaks to managing partner Linda Woolley about a firm where the clients make the front pages.

The reception area at Kingsley Napley’s offices in Clerkenwell very much reflects the character of the firm. It’s small, but big enough to serve its purpose. It lacks the ostentation of many City rivals but isn’t too Spartan either. In fact, it’s just about right. Kingsley Napley hasn’t gone for the wow factor, which is probably just as well. Unlike some of its larger City neighbours, many of the firm’s most high-profile clients won’t ever step foot inside its office.

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Under the Weather

When US outfit Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe entered the London market in 1998, chairman Ralph Baxter had a dream of competing on the global stage.

But 13 years on, that dream looks to be souring. LB investigates what is going wrong.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe was once seen as one of the most successful and promising US firms resident in London. Achieving rapid growth and performing well financially, it seemed that nothing could go wrong. But a string of departures since the start of 2010 and a lack of strategic direction has left many asking if chairman Ralph Baxter’s sheen has come off. Added to the mix is the reputational damage done by its involvement in at least two very public and ultimately failed merger talks with SJ Berwin and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Orrick does not look like the unmitigated success story it purports to be.

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Power Surge

Energy clients are dictating law firms’ strategic direction and hiring policies. For now at least, energy is king. LB finds out why.

On the last day of August ExxonMobil dominated the business pages, when news broke of its $3.2bn Arctic exploration deal with Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft. The story surprised energy specialists – a similar deal between BP and Rosneft was previously scuppered by TNK-BP, the partners in BP’s existing joint venture in Russia. The UK oil major suffered a double hit that day, when it was revealed that bailiffs had raided its offices in Moscow, linked to a case brought by TNK-BP shareholders over the failed Arctic deal with Rosneft.

These events attracted significant media attention, not just for the energy companies concerned but also the law firms involved. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which ironically advised BP on its failed deal with Rosneft, was now advising Rosneft in the deal with ExxonMobil. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld was advising the US oil major.

Deals and (more often than not) disputes between the energy giants and local incumbents have attracted significant interest in the press in recent years but it is also an inescapable fact that clients of the energy practices at some of the world’s largest law firms have dictated global growth strategies.

 

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BLP – Ten years gone

Berwin Leighton Paisner is a decade old this year, a period marked by impressive financials, a revolving door of partners and tentative international expansion. LB assesses the firm ahead of its difficult teenage years.

Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) managing partner Neville Eisenberg is impeccably well prepared for our meeting. Next to his black coffee he has printed e-mails and details of the firm’s financials over the past ten years. In his soft South African brogue, his responses are polished and littered with management-speak. He gives nothing away. But one question gives him pause – when asked if he will stand for re-election next year, he hesitates before answering cautiously: ‘Obviously I’m thinking about it.’ However, he says it’s still early days.

 

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City 50 – City Break

With a few years of pain behind them, City 50 firms are feeling better. But is it still too early to bring out the champagne?

Previous concerns that London’s place on the global financial stage could be eroded seem to have been forgotten this year. While the UK economy is still in a state of flux, the capital has maintained its standing as one of the world’s leading financial centres, adding some confidence to the majority of the industry’s leading law firms. Average London revenue across the 50 largest firms in the capital fell by just 4% during 2009/10. Still feeling the aftershocks of the global financial crisis, the numbers made for tough reading. But after a more stable period, in part thanks to some canny management, an increase in litigation mandates, a recovering corporate market and a rise in financial work, the landscape doesn’tlook too bad. This year, City 50 firms saw revenues remain flat compared with last year. And while London offices continue to contribute less to international firms’ global turnover, there were still some impressive performances.

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